Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved

you-is-kindIn the second half of my life the quality of being ‘authentic’ has become one of the most important things to me.  Hopefully I do not use that an excuse to be rude, obnoxious, or selfish. But, I don’t play a lot of the games that people play in our world. I do not ‘dress for success,’ for example. What I wear is functional, not fashionable, because I really am not concerned about whether I am in step with the designers. My words are (I hope and pray) an honest reflection of my heart. The people who see me, know me authentically.

Why is this important?  Because it is impossible to know God intimately while playing games in life!

When I found my identity as God’s child the need to gain approval from others slipped down the list of my priorities a long, long way. Yesterday my sermon text was taken from Colossians 3 where we read a description of who a Christian is. Paul’s letter to those believers in the city of Colosse aimed to correct the teachings that insisted that acceptance of the Father was found in observing a set of religious rules, in rigorous conformity to some set of adopted social norms, or in gaining some secret insider information.  Over and over he reminds them that they are ‘’in Christ” and that from Him, they receive forgiveness, salvation, and are transformed into the character of Christ Jesus.

In chapter 3, he tells them the kind of life that should be past tense and then encourages a list of traits that will come into evidence as the Spirit’s life grows. Prefacing that list, he writes this –  You are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” (Colossians 3:12, NIV)  Basic to living an authentic Christian life is knowing – mindfully and heart deep – who you are because of Christ. When the Spirit makes that real to you, you will change – from the inside out.

Do you know your identity as a child of God?
I want to point you to the part of my message where I speak of this. If you have 10 minutes, listen to the clip outlined at this link.  https://www.facebook.com/FaithDiscoveryChurch/videos/1629253460449747/   Go 33 minutes into the service, to find the opening of my message and listen for 10 minutes. If you cannot access that link try this one- http://jerscott.sermon.net/main/main/20980116.

In Christ, we are God’s chosen! Yes, made right with Him – not because of performance or pedigree, but because of faith’s response to His invitation.  We are His HOLY people, not pious, not incapable of sin, but belonging uniquely to Him, finding our highest purpose in His plans. And we are DEARLY LOVED.  So many times we begin to feel as if God has to love us or that He merely tolerates us. The Bible reveals that He is crazy about us. Yes, He set Himself to spend a great cost to bring us back to Him, to pay our debt of sin, and to prepare a place for us to share His home forever!

This Monday morning, say those words from the Bible to yourself – Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved. Pray for the information to become revelation, taking root and growing a rich harvest of joy in the Lord along with the beautiful character of Christ.

Here is a word from the Word. “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)   “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ” (Colossians 3:12-14, The Message)

Father, help us to see, to know, to receive the new life You have for us in Christ.
When the tempter accuses, may Your truth drown his lies.
Fill us with the joy of the Lord this week, heart felt, authentic.
For Jesus’ sake and His Name, I pray.  Amen

(CoffeeBreak will be back in a few days.
I am taking a couple of days away for rest and renewal)

It comes back to this …

soncomeshomeNearing the end of our Wednesday Fellowship, we were about to read the story most often called “The Prodigal Son” that is found in the 15th chapter of Luke. Chris startled me speaking up from the back row. “Pastor, just tell us the story.”  When I share the Good News of Christ’s love, I often use this parable that Jesus told.  People have heard me reference that, so she wanted to hear me tell it that way.

I thought for a second and told the sad tale of the selfish son who could not wait for his Dad to die to claim his inheritance. He took his wealth and went off to celebrate, foolishly thinking that the best life was in the bright lights of a never-ending party. It was all ‘wine, women, and song’ until the day when the money ran out.

His friends disappeared when he could no longer buy drinks and make them laugh, as ‘friends’ of that nature always do. If the only friends we have are those we find in our times of laughter, those we gather at a party, we will find ourselves alone, sooner or later, when sorrow comes. Know this – it will come. He was desperate and ended up in a pig sty; a Jewish boy feeding hogs. (Jesus had a sense of irony and humor.)  He was so broke he considered eating some of the pigs’ food.  And then it hit him.  “I can go back home but Dad won’t let me be a son. I betrayed him, rebelled, broke his heart, spent his treasure.  But, maybe if I am contrite, he will let me work on the farm. After all, even his farmhands live better than I do.”

After preparing his speech:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:18-19, NIV) -he headed for home.

That morning his Dad was where he often was those days, remembering a lost son. Then he saw a figure a long way down the road. “That looks like my son,” He thought as he stared. Watching intently, he saw it really was the wayward son. (This the part that always stirs me so deeply that tears slide down my cheeks, even as they did in the telling last Wednesday evening.)  The old man got up and did something he did not do often – he ran!  This is how Jesus told it! “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20, NIV)

The young man was confused. Kisses? An embrace?  He was convinced that Dad would roar at him, reject him, and throw him out – but he found amazing love. “Bring this kid some clean clothes. Put him back on the family roster with the privileges of an heir. And, invite the neighbors to a celebration,” the old man said.

And so we learn of just how much our Father in Heaven loves us. We find it hard to believe sometimes. We know our own rebellion. We know how we judge others and convince ourselves that He is like us; hard, unforgiving, intent on ‘justice.’  But, He is not those things! He is love beyond imagining.  Oh yes, that young man had regrets and scars from his time of indulgence. Forgiveness does not erase all the consequences of the past, but he was home again; accepted and loved.

I need to tell that story and hear that story often. Everything I do in my pastoral work comes down to this: God’s love for broken, wayward, often desperate, people who are captives of sin, confused by grace; who need to come home. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17, NLT)

Here is the word from the Word.  Hear it again, like the first time.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT)

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The Reality Some Call Grim

wordswag_1501154460739As he walked next to a cemetery in a Benedictine monastery in New Mexico’s desert Eugene Peterson noted an empty grave.  “Did one of the brothers just die?” he asked one of the monks. “No, that’s for the next one!” What an unexpected reply!  The open grave was there to be a  reminder of the shortness of this life to that community of men.  (The Pastor, A Memoir – HarperOne, 2011)  Today, I will do what I do many times each year, leading a funeral service, sharing grief, standing close to grief and sorrow. No matter how many times I say those words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,”  standing by an open grave is a reminder of mortality, a moment to refocus my life.

We Americans have no time for death, do we?  In another generation there were extended rituals of mourning and grief. Death was familiar, up close, personal. Today we leave our dying loved ones in the hands of the professionals. We rush past the jarring intrusion of loss and seek to resume our ‘normal’ lives as quickly as possible.  I believe that we are spiritually impoverished by our disconnect with mortality.

My first extended walk ‘through the valley of the shadow of death,’ came in 2009 when my Dad’s life ended. I spent two days and nights each week, for a year, at his bedside. It was exhausting, sorrowful, and one of the treasured blessed seasons of my life as I found the opportunity to know my Dad in a way that I had not known before.  In 2011, Mom moved into my home for the closing months of her life and once again, though difficult, the time was rich with love and I have no regrets about the emotional cost of those days.  Then, 3 years ago, my wife became terminally ill  with cancer and together we faced tht truth. In our time of tears we found a depth of love in those 20 months before her life here came to an end that was unmatched in our 4 decades of marriage.

Am I romanticizing death? Not at all. It is ugly, “the last enemy” the Bible says. But, we live better if we face the fact that death- of friend, of family, our own – is inevitable. Those who manage to create an illusion for themselves that Mom will live forever, that they will somehow elude that Last Appointment, often fail to invest their best in those things that truly matter. Those who understand death’s approach will choose to live the best life now.  Living near death has loosened my grip on my stuff, made me tender with others, and turned my gaze to the things of the Spirit.

I face death with Hope, too. Do I know everything about what stands on the other side of that formidable barrier? No!  But, I know enough from the Word.  Here’s my hope!  For the moment it is just a tiny spot of light on the horizon of time, like the North star that guides the traveler.  But, I know it will lead me home.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, NIV) “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54, NIV)

Remember this – it is not our record of stellar morality, our membership in a church, or our observance of religious rituals on which our hope for eternal life rests! We hope in Christ – the One who makes us right with God. By faith, we receive His gift and our fear is replaced with peace.  Here is a word from the Word for all of us who are dying. Love Him, trust His grace, face death and live as those who have real hope. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:8-11, NLT)

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Live Like You Were Dying

He said
“I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”

I asked him
“When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”

He said
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”

He said
“I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again

And then
I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”

Craig Michael Wiseman, James Timothy Nichols, Tim Nichols
• Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Round Hill Music Big Loud Songs, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

 

Great Expectations

expectIf you were told, with a unquestionable certainty, that you were going to receive a windfall of wealth in 5 years, how would it affect your life? You would start to think and plan for it!  That home you always wanted, now you would consider owning it. Now you would be able to generously support those ministries you which you care about. Conversations would be marked with references to that promise that would change your life. As the day approached, your anticipation of it would grow. The promise, though unrealized in the present, would have a real and visible impact on you.

Christian, we have a promise that is better than wealth and we will own the promise by God’s own word!  Peter wrote to the Christians who were going through hard times with this reminder. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.” (1 Peter 1:3-6, NLT)

Is this hope real to you?
Is it fixed in your mind in such a way that it changes how you live?
Are you filled with great expectation?

Jesus returned to the theme of expectation and readiness repeatedly in His teaching.  God’s rule had been announced by His coming and would be fully realized at His return. That promise, He said, should cause those of us who love Him to live expectantly.  “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” (Luke 12:35-38, NLT)

The first part of the story was common knowledge to those who first heard it. Any good household servant knew that it was his responsibility to be prepared for the master’s arrival at home, no matter how late.  But, then Jesus turned the narrative upside down!  Servants who stood ready to welcome their master, thinking that they would have many things to do for him when he returned, instead found themselves seated and served by him!  It was an unthinkable turn of events.

But, that is what Jesus promises to us who live with great expectation, who continue steadily in His service.  One day He will return and welcome us home. There we will no longer serve, we will be served. Our work will be over and our welcome into the Father’s house rich, glorious, and beyond our imagination. So, Peter urges us to remember the promise and says, “be truly glad!”

Renew your hope in the Promise! Let the certain hope of eternal life bring joyful and steady discipleship to this day.  Here is a word from the Word. Love it. Live it. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3, NLT)

__________

Anchor

I have this hope
As an anchor for my soul
Through ev’ry storm
I will hold to You

With endless love
All my fear is swept away\
In ev’rything
I will trust in You

 There is hope in the promise of the cross
You gave ev’rything to save the world You love
And this hope is an anchor for my soul
Our God will stand unshakable

 Unchanging One
Who was and is to come
Your promise sure
You will not let go

Your Name is higher
Your Name is greater
All my hope is in You
Your word unfailing
Your promise unshaken
All my hope is in You

Ben Fielding | Dean Ussher © 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

Jerry D. Scott, Pastor
Faith Discovery Church
www.FaithDiscovery.com

A child of the dust, prone to doubt

wordswag_1500986232296I argued with God for a while not too long ago. (Writing that line makes it seem more trivial than it was.)  Like Job of old I asked Him if He really was as good as He says. I argued with Him about His power, wondering if He was all He said He is.  I was reverent, respectful even. But, my questions for Him were pressing me.

In the hymn, “O Worship the King,”  there is this line that I love, “Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail; in Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail. Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end. Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.”  The first part of those lines I own easily because are fragile, dusty creatures, aren’t we?  But the second part about never finding Him to fail and His tender mercies, some days that kind of faith does not come easily.

By the way if you think I’m the first or only to have a difficult conversation with God, listen in on David’s song.
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?”
(Psalm 13:1-2, NLT)
In another psalm of lament, we read: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1, NLT)

The answer in my soul was a quiet, “Wait for Me.”  I am not much good at waiting. Are you?  Trained by my world of gratification, 2 day shipping, and fast computers – I like answers now.  And yet the Spirit’s whisper to me was a simple word – “Wait for Me!”  My response was a cry:  “Lord, increase my faith. Help me to be mature, patient, so that I see past these troubled times to that Promise of Life.”  The Scripture counsels me to “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage!” (Psalm 37:7-8)

James reminds us that we are like farmers in the stretch between spring planting and fall harvest. We wait! “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8, NIV)

While we wait, we must pray for perspective, keeping our vision clear and including the whole of the life we are living.  My life is not defined only by disappointment and/or difficulty though the enemy of God and good loves when I allow myself to see only those things.  Confronted with death, I must pick up the telescope of faith to peer to the edge of time and take in the vistas of Eternal Life secured by Christ Jesus for us. When loneliness wraps my heart in its chill, I choose to remember the deep love of friend and family that I know. When I see only destruction of war, I must go and see the beauty of the earth and be renewed in wonder. (I did just that for a few moments yesterday!)

And, I go again, in my doubts to Jesus. The Glorious God of heaven, in all His majesty and glory, is just beyond my grasp sometimes. That is when I need to remember that He walked with me, when I need to read about the God-Man, Who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8, NIV)  He is such a Friend for every season for me.

Are you fighting for faith? Are your emotions bloody and raw? Are you impatient with God, angry even, wondering how He can be good and let that thing happen?  You’re not the first. I urge humility. Cry ‘til you think your heart will split in two! Fall on your knees and pound the floor, but do not turn your back on Him. Instead, wait. Find someone who will wait with you, without words of explanation, without judgment, without demanding that you ‘get better now.’  Let that person embody the Presence of Jesus to you.  I am so thankful for those who have been “Jesus with skin on” for me throughout my life.  Jesus wept with those in pain! He touched those who were unclean in the eyes of others.  Let someone wait with you praying for your healing. I hope that they will say, “I’ll have faith for you right now while you’re hurting so badly” instead of giving you a lecture about the unchanging faithfulness of God.

Here is a word from the Word, the 73rd Psalm. It has become a ‘go to’ passage for me when I am dealing with doubt.  Know it.  You may not need the words today, but sooner or later, you will need it, too.
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. . . .
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73, NIV)

____________________________

Even If  (Mercy Me sings their new song at this link)

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good all of my days
Jesus I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You care

I hope in You alone ooh
It is well with my soul
It is well it is well with my soul

Bart Millard | Ben Glover | Crystal Lewis | David Arthur Garcia | Tim Timmons
© 2017 D Soul Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)
Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) 9t One Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

 

Real Faith or American Positivism?

strengthensIt was 2 am, time when I should have been experiencing the deepest sleep, that kind that makes us healthy and energetic, but instead I was staring into the dark. My mind would not settle and anxious thoughts tumbled over one another like water spilling over rocks in a creek bed. Endless concerns, feelings of being swept away by the current of events, a sense that life was out of control and I would be lost in the chaos left me facing an old enemy – anxiety.  Google the word. Lots of people in our time are dealing with this.

Anxiety – is it a spiritual issue? Is it an illness?  Is it ‘my fault?’  Over the years I have realized that I cannot wish it away and that I am not a sinner because I feel this way.  I choose not to use medications that are available. Even though they can help, most of them change the way I know my world in a way that I find unpleasant.

One of the Scripture passages that Christians have referred me to when I talk about feeling anxious is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. As he teaches us about the sufficiency of Christ and the contentment found in Him, he says this – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13, KJV) That is a wonderful statement, isn’t it?  Many Christians read a kind of American positivism into that verse so that it becomes this – “Because Jesus is my God, I can make anything happen in life that I want, if I believe it enough and remain positively confident.”  That’s a great idea for us and would be a source of real inspiration if it were true. But, positivism is not what the Spirit is telling us there at all!

Read the whole of Paul’s letter. He is writing while imprisoned! He is not declaring that Jesus is going to get him out of jail. In fact, he makes no demands of God about the future.  His statement about doing all things through Christ is preceded by this profound declaration of humble reliance on the Lord. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21, NIV)   No matter death or life – he has no reason to feel lesser or unworthy.  Either outcome is honorable because he knows that Christ will be lifted up by if he continues to  trust Him and remains faithful to Him.

When we read – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”  we are encouraged to understand that because He is Lord of life and death, because He has secured our peace with God, because He has come back from the dead, our Resurrected Lord, we can live through any storm, deal with any challenge, and face the Devil and the darkness even while we continue to do life with a quietly confident knowledge that we are safe in His arms.

“But, Jerry,” you say, “I want to be the master of my situations, making them all work out the way I desire through faith.“ I will admit that I would like that, too. But, we are not God! I have wished a thousand times for the ability to wave away a family’s dysfunction with a prayer but discipleship is about teaching them to rely on Christ and the power of the Spirit to change them, inside out, into His likeness. I have wished for the miraculous ability to heal every sickness and multiply the bread for the poor but know that because of Christ, I can pray in faith that leans heavily on Him and then walk the road He chooses in humble obedience.

Yes, Jesus calmed storms and healed diseases. And, He still does, but not because we insist that He will. His invitation is that we bring all our needs to Him and then find the strength, the courage, the contentment to live in His grace no matter what happens to us or around us.

So, my anxious thoughts may return occasionally in the middle of the night, but I can remain faithful to Him because He strengthens me.  Things may not (indeed, they certainly will not) always be what I want them to be, but He is always Who He said He would be so I will remain hopeful because He strengthens me. In my limited understanding, there will be the appearance of chaos, but I will not cower in fear, because He strengthens me.

Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit make it living truth for us this Monday morning.
“So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done.  …

Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.

… Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. … Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.” (Philippians 1:18-29, The Message)

______

In my life, Lord, be glorified Today! Amen

An Accidental Pharisee

read“How could she do this? Is she really walking with Christ?” My indignation boiled over. Was I right to be concerned? Perhaps. Were her actions consistent with a follower of Christ? I do not believe that they were.  But, my attitude was a problem, a major one! For a moment, I lost sight of redemption and restoration.

Larry Osborne, a pastor, speaks of becoming ‘an accidental Pharisee.’  He suggests that nobody, not even those Pharisees in Jesus’ time, wants to be the ‘Pharisee’ of our understanding; critical, judgmental, and hypocritical. And, yet it is those who are most passionate about Christ and His Kingdom who are most at risk of slipping into that place where I found myself.

The attitude of a Pharisee develops when comparison sets in, when concern for appearance takes over.  When I am more concerned about how the church is functioning, about protecting our reputation, than I am about loving the people Jesus loves, I have become an accidental Pharisee. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV)   Whenever we take care to create an image, spend time making sure we are making the right kind of impression, even if it is supposedly to help others ‘see Jesus in us,’ we become Pharisees.

Let’s be clear about something. Jesus did not say “Ah, who cares how you live? Just do whatever you want. God is love!”  Rather, He tells us to get our inside right first so that there is no gap between what others see and who we actually are! Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that discipleship does not require holiness because our culture of tolerance.  Some insist, “Don’t judge me” but they are really saying, “Let me do my own thing.” Christianity is not a private thing, just Jesus and me. We live in community, part of His Body, and we are responsible for one another.  And yes, those who lead must constantly correct and encourage those in their spiritual care. We are, in fact, our brother’s keeper.  Others insist that “love triumphs over all,” as if love removes all calls to conform to the likeness of Christ.  Love does indeed cover a multitude of offenses, but the highest love is truthful.

Accidental Pharisees have a misplaced focus – their gaze slips from Christ to Self.

Have you concluded that somebody in the church needs to go?
Have you decided that they are unworthy of being a disciple?
Have you made the choice to withdraw from their company because you think you are better than they are?
Perhaps you have made the same mistake I did, becoming an accidental Pharisee!

Let’s not lose our passion for a holy kingdom of beautiful saints!
But, as we pursue that aim, let’s remember that there are those who are mature and those who are babes, there are those who are growing and those who have stalled (often for reasons we cannot know or see), there are those who are very different from us in personality yet incredibly important to the whole work of Christ in the world.  When those of us who are little farther down the road slip into that accidental Pharisaicalism, may God remind us of the two pillars of righteousness – Loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving others as we love ourselves.

Here is a word from the Word. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:19-24, NIV)

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We Will Stand

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand;
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love
We will stand!

Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,
Why we pull away from each other so easily?
Even though we’re all walking the same road
Yet we build dividing walls,
Between our brothers and ourselves.

The day will come, when we will be as one,
And with a mighty voice
Together we will proclaim that Jesus,
Jesus is King.
It will echo through the earth
It will shake the nations,
And the world will see,
See that

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand;
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love
We will stand!

James Hollihan | Russ Taff | Tori Taff © 1983 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055

Make it beautiful

beauty1The news report of increased traffic on the hiking trails of a park in NE New Jersey a couple of days ago showed trash thrown around, plastic bottles discarded, food wrappings piled in the underbrush, and not just a little.  What a metaphor for this world, I thought.  Humanity trashes life in so many ways and places. Violence tears apart nations. Hatred divides races. Much of our art is coarse and at times even lewd. Even our words are too often used in ways that are ugly, spreading garbage instead of grace. Self and sin trash this beautiful world that God gave to us. 

Christ restores what sin destroyed! Our calling, Christian, is to be like Him, to bring His beauty into the world where we live. We should aspire to that, everywhere and all of the time. John says “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NLT) Implied through that text is the transformational experience that we know because of Jesus!

God calls us into His family giving us a noble identity! We continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus, the world around us unable to grasp what is happening to us because they do not know the Source of the change.  With a view of Heaven’s beauty, we choose to become ‘pure,’ a word that indicates that we have left the dirt and corruption behind to become clean, whole, and beautiful. Careful on that.  In our pursuit of  beauty we may be tempted to resort to the cheap substitute of superficial pious acts rather than pursue the deep and true beauty of a transformed character. To be truly beautiful, we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, changing us from the inside out.

The genuinely beautiful life of Christ is created in us as our minds are renewed with truth; as we practice the disciplines of the Spirit that allow Him to re-pattern our behavior; and with the encouragement of the holy community, Christ’s church. The indispensable Agent of change, however, is God, the Holy Spirit. He calls us to faith in Jesus.  He shows us Who God is. He makes us see the lies we once believed. He corrects us, leading us through tests that help us to grow in grace.  And, He whispers encouragement to us as we leave the ‘old country of sin,’ for the city of God!

Are you making life beautiful, Christian friend?
Have you left behind filthy speech for that which honors God?
Does the music that fills your day praise Him or encourage the baser impulses?
Are you loving when others are cruel, gentle in a harsh world, light in the darkness?

As you read this word from the Word today, compare the two ways of life – one full of the trash of the sinful nature – one radiant with the beauty of the Spirit’s transformation:
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. …

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:16-25, NLT)
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Beautiful Things

All this pain;
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change
At all?

 All this earth,
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground
At all?

 All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground!
Out of chaos life is being found
In You!

 You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us. 

You make me new,
You are making me new.
You make me new,
You are making me new.

Lisa Gungor | Michael Gungor
© 2009 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Captivated

splendor1

Pure love is rare, isn’t it? On a Sunday morning in June, 1974, I first saw Bev and I was captivated; yes, it was really love at first sight. That love was tainted by self-interest as are all human loves. I found her attractive, interesting, a person who made me feel joyful – and loved her.

Driving through the Rocky Mountains a few years ago, the vistas made me want to pause, to gaze, to feel the wonder of it all. My awe morphed to loving worship for the Creator of it all.

Then, too, I recall being overwhelmed with love in the Church of All Nations which stands at the site of the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will and surrendered Himself to the work of being the sacrifice for the sins of the world! An intense love swept over me, leaving me unable to stand, to speak, with tears of adoration wetting my face.

Let me ask you what I asked myself in my meditation this morning – do you love God for Himself, or for what He can do for you? Are you captivated by the glory of the Divine, enthralled by the grace that invites you to enter His Holy Presence?  Those questions are not easily answered, are they?

If you are like me, some days God is just there, taken for granted even as He gives life and breath, His beauty unseen. Then there are those moments of need when we come to Him, not because we desire Him, but because we want some grace, some blessing, some remedy. I do not want to imply that we should not pray about our needs. Our Father invites us to come and to present our needs to Him.

We also can learn to love Him- not for what He does, nor for what we need, but for Who He is!  “The study of God is simply to be enjoyed for its own incomparable subject, the One most beautiful, most worthy of praise. Life with God delights in its very acts of thinking, reading, praying, and communing with the One most worthy to be beheld, pondered, and studied; not for its written artifacts or social consequences, but for joy in its object.”  A Change of Heart, Thomas C. Oden

To be captivated by Him, to see His true beauty, demands something of us. We must come and wait, step aside from the busy pursuits of life, enter into His Presence. Imagine going to visit a gallery filled with the works of master artists only to rush through, glancing at the time constantly, pressing towards the exit. Would you really appreciate the beauty of the art on display? Of course not, right?  Those masterpieces require time, a pause, focus, perhaps an interpreter who provides the information needed to see why the work is so admirable.

Similarly, we need to create time to come and see the beauty of the Lord. Each day we can focus on Him, listening, waiting, learning, loving. The invitation into worship with His Church is an intentional pause in the rush of the week, a holy time when we come to offer ourselves to Him and, hopefully, to see Him in His beauty. Will you?

This word from the Word is almost incomprehensible for a majority of people, consumed with life, their minds and hearts packed so full of trivia and trinkets that there is no room for real Treasure. I pray for you that these words will invite you to ponder the Majesty and be captivated by a pure love for the Holy One.

“A psalm of David.
Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings; honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders.
The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with bolts of lightning.
The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare.

In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:1-9, NLT)

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I Stand In Awe

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depth of Your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

 And I stand I stand in awe of You
I stand I stand in awe of You\
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You

Mark Altrogge © 1987 Sovereign Grace Praise (Admin. by Sovereign Grace Ministries)

CCLI License # 810055

God of the leftovers?

leftovers.pngThe ministry leader was anguished. He could not find people who would faithfully serve, who would share the work of the call about which he was passionate. The pastor was sad. The church pews were half empty, the ‘worshippers’ gone off to do what they wanted on the Lord’s Day. Their prayers were unprayed, their Bibles unread, their families left without spiritual leadership. Both realized that God had been relegated to the place of a hobby.

A hobby is something we do for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation   A real hobby adds value to our lives by giving us a creative outlet, by connecting us to other people, and/or by helping us develop new skills.   I hope you’ve got one! But, Christ did not come to be a peripheral part of our lives, did He? The curse of the modern Church is that “God” has become a hobby for so many Christians. He gets what’s left over after the ‘important’ things in life.  After work, school, home maintenance, sports … then, God gets His time. He gets a donation, not a tithe.  Many give what they can ‘afford’ after making payments on the mortgage, credit cards, and cars.  Christian services fills in the gaps in the day planner, after the ‘real work’ is finished – as a hobby ought to, but as He never should.

It is a misappropriation of priorities.   We are spiritual beings, first and foremost, and the spiritual lives forever.  Physical bodies die. Everything we tend with such intensity – homes, work, cars, gardens –  will decay or their season will pass.  When our appetites are allowed to lead us, we will worship our bodies, our achievements, and our stuff  even as we play at worshipping God and using the gifts of the Spirit to serve others in His Name. When we attempt to create our own ‘heaven on earth,’ we inevitably lose sight of eternity,  misplace our treasure, and wonder if the neglected faith is even worth the polite nod we give to it on alternate Sundays of the month.

Vital Christianity does not just ‘happen’ to us.  We choose, each to lift up Christ in our thought and actions. The Bible says, “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16-17, NLT)   Joshua, the leader of God’s people, directed them to “fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped … and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:13-15, NIV)

Ask this of yourself as you enter your office or place of employment – “Today will I do this as God’s work or just to create an income?”  How we answer that question will make a difference in the way we work.  We will honor Christ in all things!

When making decisions about spending your resources of time or money, ask, “As I manage this sacred trust, do I prioritize the Lord?” Jesus told us that how we use temporal resources creates eternal wealth!

Are you raising your children to be a success in life or to be a disciple of Jesus? Those things need not be mutually exclusive, but we do need to keep them in the right priority. If trained to succeed only, your child will lose out on the most important thing – knowing Jesus. If trained to be a disciple, she will know the greater success in life and gain eternal life, too.  Ask yourself honestly – do my activities lead my children to conclude that loving Jesus is my primary purpose in life?

Malachi received a word from God for His people. Seems that the Jews were blessed, but they forgot Who was blessing them.  God was second to their own desires and plans.  He was getting the left-overs.  He said,  “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’  “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me.  You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! 

And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!   “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

A ‘hobby’ God is unable to meet our deepest needs.  That is the reason that so many Christians are unfulfilled – chasing experience, moving from church to church, even abandoning Christ’s church. God has not failed to meet their needs. They have asked Him to live in the wrong place in their lives.  So, ponder this word from the Word today.  Mediate deeply on it!  “… do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the (those without God) seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NKJV)

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Crown Him With Many Crowns (Diademata)

 Crown Him with many crowns
The Lamb upon His throne
Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own
Awake my soul and sing
Of Him who died for thee
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity

 Crown Him the Lord of life
Who triumphed o’er the grave
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die

 Crown Him the Lord of love
Behold His hands and side
Rich wounds yet visible above
In beauty glorified
No angel in the sky\
Can fully bear that sight
But downward bends each burning eye
At mysteries so bright 

George Job Elvey | Godfrey Thring | Matthew Bridges

© Words: Public Domain